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Old 02-23-2003, 11:44 AM   #1
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Water testing - what tests necessary for FOwLR?

After years of FW I just set up my first SW tank. 125 gal FOwLR.
Took package deal from LFS (probably a mistake). Substrate is aragonite (1-1"). The LFS delivered and set up the tank and filled it. They did not rinse the tank or substrate just dumped the substrate and salt filled the tank from the city water supply (washing machine faucet). It took 2 days for the tank to settle. It's now a week later and I've added 40 lbs of base rock and 50 lbs of Tonga LR (Friday night). I'm going to add another 25 lbs of LR Tuesday.

There is an Acqua Clear trickle filter with bio balls. 300w heater is in the sump. Yesterday I added 2 Hagen 802 powerheads.
Today PH test is at 8.0 (dropped from 8.6)
Ammonia is at 1.0
Nitrite is at .25
Nitrate is at 0

What other tests do I need to do on a regular basis?
Calcium?
Alkalinity?
Copper?
Phosphate?

How often should this test be done?
While cycling?
After cycling?

Are some test kits better than others?
What about the test strips e.g. Saltwater pH Test Strips from Acquamarine or Jungle?
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Old 02-23-2003, 08:32 PM   #2
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Well, to start with, I would test for pH, ammonia, and nitrite. While the tank is cycling, I would check these every day. As you see the tank coming close to the end of it's cycle, you can start to check for other things. Nitrates for instance. In FW, seeing the nitrates come up is a sign that the cycle is finished and it's time to start slowly increasing the bioload. It's the same is SW except that nitrates are less welcome in a SW tank. Although, at 105lbs of LR, you are a little under the recommended ratio, I think you can safely dispense with the bioballs and rely on the LR to handle your bio filtration. The bio balls will produce nitrates rather quickly and, in the right concentrations, nitrates are bad news in SW. You might want to read up on DSB's (deep sand beds) also.
Once the nitrite has started to drop, you'll want to start to monitor nitrate. After a month or so of 0 readings on the ammonia and nitrite, you shouldn't have to worry about testing for them on a regular basis...just when you suspect trouble or when you have increased the bioload in the tank.
After the tank cycles, you also will want to check alk and calcium on a regular basis. I check mine about once a week...sometimes twice if I have the time. Since I use RO/DI water only in my tank, I don't check for phosphate regularly. I might check it once a month or if I see some algae starting up somewhere. High phosphate (and nitrate) levels are a prime suspect when you see problem algae starting up. Copper? Unless you suspect that your source water has a copper content or you think copper might have somehow been introduced into the tank, I wouldn't worry about it.
What brand of kits? I use Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kits. I find they are sufficient for what I need. I think reefrunner uses Salifert kits. I've never used them, but if he endorses them, I wouldn't hesitate to say they are good. I don't much like the dip strips. I find them difficult to read and I question their accuracy.
If I may make a suggestion, you might want to consider adding another heater. Redundancy is a good thing with heaters. I recently lost a clownfish because the heater got unplugged. If there had been two heaters, I would probably still have my clownfish. And, as I said earlier, I'd really think about ditching those bio balls.
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Old 02-23-2003, 11:15 PM   #3
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Thanks. I have a spare heater on order. Everything electrical is plugged into a UPS (lessons learned from FW power outages), and the UPS is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

The LFS owes me a protein skimmer which should be in by now. How soon should I connect and start using it? Is it necessary at this early stage?

I'm used to using the Kordon products (NovAqua and Amqel) for tap water conditioning. I'm using them now for the marine setup but I'm thinking about getting an RO/DI unit. The units seem rather large for the small use it will get. I'm thinking in terms of storage when it's not needed. Not exactly a countertop item.

How far in advance can water be pre-mixed? I know it should be aged for a day, but is a week too long? What about evaporation during that period? I have a 20gal Rubbermaid can for the water changes but it does not have a cover.
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Old 02-24-2003, 07:01 AM   #4
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You can hook up the skimmer any time you want to. I don't think you will see it pulling anything from the water for a while though. You don't really NEED it until you start to see the film on top of the water that we refer to as DOC's (dissolved organic compounds).
I have never used either of the water conditioners you mentioned, therefore I can't comment on their effectiveness. The RO/DI unit is best permanently plumbed in somewhere such as a utility room. IME, the little faucet adapters that come with them have a tendency to blow off under pressure. I would suggest testing your water supply for nitrate, phosphate, and possibly even copper.
There is no problem storing premixed SW for a week or even longer. It needs to be covered and have a small powerhead running to provide some circulation. If you leave it uncovered, not only will dust and other particles settle in it, but the evaporation will require you to add FW to get the salinity back within acceptable limits. You might want to think about buying RO/DI water from the LFS...I think you will have less problems in the long run if you use it.
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Old 02-24-2003, 01:56 PM   #5
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Quick follow on question to the group regarding storing SW. what do most of you use to mix and store SW for water changes. I'm using 5gallon bucket without covers mix a day or so in advance of water change, but it's a bit cumbersome to store. I usally change about 5gallons. Anyone find any sealable containers that tend to work well??
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Old 02-26-2003, 11:52 AM   #6
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Old 02-26-2003, 12:08 PM   #7
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Zephyrhills or Crystal or any 5 gallon water container for drinking water....

Reefrunner I believe it was told me about some 5 gallon sealable drinking water containers with handles at Wal-Mart in the camping section..
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Old 02-26-2003, 12:39 PM   #8
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Sorry Clownfish...just now got back to this one . Since I have a relatively small setup, I use a 5 gal pail with a lid for mine. I usually mix it the day before I'm gonna do a change and leave it all night. I have mixed up a couple and kept them as long as 2 weeks though. I think a Rubbermaid garbage can with a lid would be ideal if you were wanting to mix up larger quantities. Really, about any inert container would work fine. I think a round one is best because it doesn't give the salt a corner to pile up in...seems like it always does that when I try to use one of the rectangular storage totes as a mixing tank. We use 55gal plastic drums at the store...you can get new ones pretty cheap. Come down the side of the drum about 3-4" where it starts to flare out and cut it all the way around. Then you can invert the top piece and use it as a cover. As I mentioned before, I like to leave a PH running in mine although I don't know that it's really necessary.
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Old 02-26-2003, 05:18 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input. I've been using the bucket, but don't have a cover. The covers I've seen for my bucket are not really reseable friendly. The 5 gallon container at Walmart sounds about right for what I was thinking. I'll have to find a wal-mart and check it out.
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